x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

An A-list of the financially troubled

The singer Sheryl Crow has sold her music catalogue for US$10 million.
The singer Sheryl Crow has sold her music catalogue for US$10 million.

Woeful news, country fans. Sheryl Crow has just flogged her music catalogue for US$10 million (Dh37m). Is it cruel to suggest that this is rather a generous sum for a playlist that includes The First Cut is the Deepest and All I Wanna Do? Whatever. The point is presumably that, before the cheque arrived, all was not well with Crow's finances. Let's not forget this is a woman who once implored the world to use only one square of loo paper per "restroom" visit. So we must assume that she knew a little of budgetary measures, clearly just not how to apply them. But happily, the chanteuse is now saved and we can breathe again, safe in the knowledge that there will be further warbling from Crow in the future.

Less lucky in the celebrity finance stakes is the photographer Annie Leibovitz, currently the source of much aghast whispering, mostly among those who read Vogue, because she is staring bankruptcy right in the face. The sad tale begins last December, when Leibovitz obviously had a quick scan of her bank statements and decided all was not well. So, off she popped to a group called the Art Capital Group for help. Shortly afterwards, they coughed up a loan of US$24 million (Dh88m) for Leibovitz, but one which stipulated the rights to her life's work as collateral.

Eight months on and things look less than peachy. The loan is due on September 8 and word on the New York sidewalk is that Leibovitz will be unable to comply. (Loan means you have to return it, Annie!) Goodbye, all those naked, pregnant Demi Moore photos. Adios, snap of John and Yoko in bed. Sayonara, Whoopi Goldberg, immersed in a bath of milk. You all now belong to the Art Capital Group. It is, of course, terribly vulgar for poor celebrities to have their financial misdeeds raked over like mortals. But nevermind. Isn't it just stupendously gratifying to see that they too can be afflicted by money problems? How delightful to learn that they can no longer carry on through the recession blithely buying up houses made of cheese and semi-orphaned African babies at will.

Take, for example, Gordon Ramsay, sometime chef, all-time television star. Earlier this month he revealed that he had been forced to inject US$8m (Dh29m) of his own money into his floundering restaurant empire. Worse still, he spoke of having to sell his silver Ferrari in forlorn tones which suggested he would rather have ditched one of his children instead. But all was not lost. He could, at least, still laugh in the bleak face of adversity. "I had my own personal nightmare," he quipped, playing on the name of his American television show. Bravo, Gordon! Might we suggest a sideline in stand-up comedy if all else fails?

Then there's Kerry Katona, who in recent times has bravely kept the UK tabloid press afloat with scandal after scandal. Most recently, she lost a contract with a UK supermarket chain and so her annual stipend of £250,000 (Dh1.5m) for dribbling out the line "that's why Mums go to Iceland" is gone. Bankruptcy snaps at her heels. Michael Jackson was also no stranger to the odd financial hiccup. As one might suspect, a weakness for solid gold furnishings proved no friend to a healthy bank account and by the time of his death he was in debt, some say to the tune of US$500m (Dh1.835bn). Fortunately, there is now general agreement that his estate will prove profitable in the end, so every cloud, silver linings and all that.

Perhaps those celebrities who have been hit most unfairly are those who saw fit to invest with Bernie Madoff and so lost lots of lovely millions. These include illustrious names such as Kevin Bacon, Steven Spielberg, John Malkovich, Zsa Zsa Gabor and Larry King. Also Arpad Busson, who is only part celebrity because he has recently married Uma Thurman while remaining a boring, old hedge-funder. But if he couldn't smell trouble, what hope did those unwitting A-listers stand?

Bacon subsequently talked of the repercussions. "I don't have anything lined up right now, but I need to work for obvious reasons," he remarked mournfully in January. Yes, except shooting another film is not quite cleaning floors or flipping burgers, Kevin, but it does illustrate that unerring celebrity desire to keep putting yourself out there, which we so admire in these troubled times. * Sophia Money Coutts